Thursday, December 20, 2012
"They were also curious in instructing the world how benign and compassionate God was to them in easing their pains, in plaguing their persecutors, in revealing their Reliques, and working miracles at their Tombs; their torments were so far from sitting uneasily on them, that they voluntarily courted them, and rejoyc'd under them, and when they were condemn'd, usually cry'd out, Deo gratias, God be praised. S. Ignatius resolv'd, and S. Germanicus actually did incite, and allure the wild beasts to devour them, and Apollonia leapt into the fire; S. Laurence felt no pain on his Gridiron, nor Theodorus the acute twitches of his Rack, and other inflictions, but full of joy continued singing a Psalm; and how could he but be chearful, that had his Assistant-Angel at his side, wiping off his sweat, and refreshing his tired and parcht limbs by pouring a cooling stream on him?"
– from Remarques Relating to the State of the Church of the First Centuries by Abednego Seller (1646?-1705) issued in 1680 by the London printer, Richard Chiswell
Abednego Seller was an English controversialist of the 17th century whose book I recently cataloged for the library where I work. From his list of saintly sufferers, I chose only one for representation here – Saint Lawrence, a Roman deacon roasted alive (on the gridiron that became his emblem) in the year 258, at a time when the Empire demonstrated increasing desperation in attempting to sustain the power of the doomed pagan gods (and the established political order) by extravagantly punishing selected Christians as so-called terrorists.
1. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1614
2. Illuminated manuscript, Paris, c.1455
3. Lorenzo di Niccolò, c.1410
4. Master of the Acts of Mercy, Salzburg, c.1465
5. Valentin de Boulogne, 1621
6. Antonio Campi, 1581
7. Genovese School, 17th century
8. Follower of Caravaggio (detail), 17th century
9. Titian, 1567
10. Agnolo Bronzino, 1569
11. Pietro da Cortona, c.1653
12. Fra Angelico, c.1447